As the name suggests, Pancha in Sanskrit stands for Five and Karma are therapeutic measures thereby meaning five types of therapeutic measures. These are undertaken for the purification of the body and Ayurveda considers it necessary before the start of any other therapy. The logic being -as a cloth needs to be purified or cleaned of impurities and dust before it can be imparted a new color. Similarly the Body needs to be purified before it can be imparted new colors of youthfulness, health and vigor etc. In fact, most of the times, Panchakarma is an end in itself rather than a prelude to other therapeutic measures.
According to Ayurveda, every human being is a unique phenomenon of cosmic consciousness. The three Dosha (humors) determines every individual’s psychosomatic temperament or constitution. Vata (ether plus air), Pitta (fire plus water) and Kapha (water plus earth) are called the Tridosha, meaning the three Dosha. The internal environment is governed by Vata -Pitta -Kapha (V-P-K), which is constantly reacting to the external environment. The wrong diet, habits, lifestyle, incompatible food combinations (e.g. milk and fish, melons and grain, yogurt and meat or cooked honey etc.), seasonal changes, repressed emotions and stress factors can all act either together or separately to change the balance of V-P-K. According to the nature of the cause, Vata, Pitta or Kapha undergo aggravation or derangement that produces Ama (toxins). To stop the further production of Ama Ayurvedic literature suggests putting the person on a proper diet with appropriate lifestyle, habits and exercise, and administering a proper cleansing program such as Panchakarma.
The most deeply seated toxins that cause disease are heavy and sticky, lodging in the deepest tissue layers. Pañcha Karma permanently eliminates these toxins from the body, allowing healing and restoration of the tissues, channels, digestion, and mental functions.
It is recommended for healthy persons also as a preventive treatment to keep physically and mentally fit and energetic. It is also done to best advantage, although not always, at the junction period between two seasons, thus helping a person to prepare their internal environment for the oncoming season.
The purpose of Pancha Karma is to:
1. Promote health by Dinacharya (daily regimen) and Ritucharya (seasonal regimen) which collectively is called Svastha Vrtta.
2. Prepare the body for rejuvenation (Rasayana) and fertility (Vajikarana) therapies.
3. Treat disease by elimination of malas (natural waste of metabolism) from the body.
4. Treat disease by eliminating doshas from the body (with or without toxins - ama).
5. Prevention of disease by stopping the reoccurrence of dosha aggravation.
Panchakarma therapies can be broadly classified into three: Purva Karma, Pradhana Karma and Paschata Karma. Here we will discuss the first two.
Purvakarma: Pre-purification Measures for Panchakarma
Before the actual operation of purification begins, there is a need to prepare the body in prescribed methods to encourage the body to let go of the toxins. The two procedures are Snehana and Swedana.
Snehana (Abhyangam) is the oil massage. Oil is applied to the entire body with a particular type of massage which helps the toxins to move towards the gastro-intestinal tract. Oil massage also makes the superficial and deep tissues soft and supple, thus helping to remove stress and to nourish the nervous system. Snehana is given daily for three to seven days, as indicated.
Swedana (sudation or sweating) is given every day immediately following the Snehana. An herbal concoction may be added to the steam to further loosen the toxins from the individual. Swedana liquefies the toxins and increases the movement of toxins into the gastro-intestinal tract.
Pradhanakarma: Main Purification measures of Panchakarma
Vamana: Emesis Therapy
When there is congestion in the lungs causing repeated attacks of bronchitis, colds, cough or asthma, the Ayurvedic treatment is therapeutic vomiting, Vamana, to eliminate the Kapha causing the excess mucus.
Virechana: Purgation Therapy
When excess bile, Pitta, is secreted and accumulated in the gall bladder, liver and small intestine, it tends to result in rashes, skin inflammation, acne, chronic attacks of fever, biliary vomiting, nausea and jaundice. Ayurvedic literature suggests in these conditions the administration of therapeutic purgation or a therapeutic laxative.
Nasya: Nasal Administration
The nose is the doorway to the brain and it is also the doorway to consciousness. The nasal administration of medication is called Nasya. An excess of bodily humors accumulated in the sinus, throat, nose or head areas is eliminated by means of the nearest possible opening, the nose.
Basti: Enema Therapy
Vata's predominant site is the colon. Ayurvedic Basti involves the introduction into the rectum of herbal concoctions of sesame oil, and certain herbal preparations in a liquid medium. Basti, is the most effective treatment of Vata disorders, although many enemas over a prescribed period of time are usually required. It relieves constipation, distention, chronic fever, cold, sexual disorders, kidney stones, heart pain, backache, sciatica and other pains in the joints. Many other Vata disorders such as arthritis, rheumatism, gout, muscle spasms and headaches may also be treated with Basti. Basti therapy is divided in two main types, i.e. Anuvasana Basti or medicated oil enemas and Niruha Basti or medicated enema of decoctions and medicated oils.
Various Other Panchkarma Procedures
In this treatment, Specific Body massage for 45-60 minutes with herbal oil or herbal cream to tone up the body and to improve the blood circulation etc. is performed. It is useful for elimination of several aliments as well as it is indicated as
PURVAKARMA - pretreatment procedure - for all the therapeutic Panchakarma procedure.
VASHPASWEDANAM: (Medicated Steam Bath)
This is a unique treatment and under this treatment leaves of medicinal plants are boiled and resulting steam is passed to the whole body. This treatment is helpful in to eliminate impurities from the body, reducing fat and also helpful in fighting with some skin diseases. This is also indicated as PURVAKARMA for Panchakarma procedures.
In this process medicated water, herbal oils, medicated milk etc. are poured on the forehead through a special method for 30 to 45 minutes. This treatment is very useful for mental tension, stress, hypertension, insomnia, Vata predominated diseases and certain other diseases.
This is an herbal face pack with specially made herbal powder and fresh cream. This prevents and avoids wrinkles and improves the skin tone. This is also good for the eyes.
This massage includes whole body massage with herbal oil or powder by hand and foot, for 90 minutes. This is good for rejuvenating the body, to reduce mental tension, sexual weakness, to improve vitality etc. relieves back pain, stiffness and sports injuries but also stimulates various bodily organs and systems.
PATRAPOTALI PINDA SWEDA
Herbal leaves and herbs or herbal powders are applied to the whole body in boluses with hot medicated oils for 45 minutes per day for a period of 7 to 14 days. This treatment is for osteoarthritis, arthritis, swelling. Spondylitis, sports injuries etc.
In this process specially prepared warm medicated oil is kept over the lower back with herbal paste boundary. This treatment lasts for 45 minutes to 1 hour and it is good for any type of back pain and spinal disorders.
Herbal juices, medicated oils through the nose for 7 to 14 highly effective for certain kinds bells palsy, writers cramps, disorders, insomnia depression, certain types of skin diseases etc.
Certain lukewarm herbal oils are poured into a cap fitted on the head for 15 to 60 minutes per day according to the patient’s conditions for a period of 7 days. This treatment is highly effective for mental stress, rejuvenation of sensory organs, facial paralysis, dryness of nostrils, mouth and throat, severe headaches, burning sensation of head and other vata predominant diseases.
In this treatment, lukewarm herbal oils are applied all over the body by two to four trained masseurs in a special rhythmic way for about 60 to 90 minutes per day fora period of 7 to 21 days. This treatment is very useful for rheumatic diseases like arthritis, paralysis, hemiplegia, and nervous disorders etc.
It is a process by which the whole body or any specific part thereof is made to perspire by the application of certain medicated puddings externally in the form of boluses tied up in a muslin bag. This is applied by two to four masseurs for about 60 to 90 minutes per day for a period of 14 days. This treatment is for rheumatism, pain in the joints, emaciation of limbs, blood pressure, cholesterol and certain kinds of skin diseases.
This is a typical massage with herbal powders for about 30 minutes daily for a period of 3 to 28 days. This treatment is for oily skin, to enhance the luster and glow of the skin and for the diseases like obesity (excess fat) and certain rheumatic ailments.
This is the cleaning process of the eyes which gives cooling effect. Prevents eye diseases and strengthens the optic nerve. It is very effective at treating eye diseases and poor or blurred vision.